Wednesday, April 17, 2019

American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society Open Boston's Mayflower 400th Anniversary Commemorations with Tributes to Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation

I received this press release from NEHGS today:


April 17, 2019—Boston, Massachusetts—American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS)—the oldest and largest genealogical society in America—today held the first of a series of events in the U.S. commemorating the 400th anniversary of the landing of the Mayflower with a festive ceremony at their headquarters on Newbury Street in Boston, Massachusetts.

An imposing replica of the Mayflower, the ship that carried the Pilgrims to the new world in 1620, was christened the Boston Mayflower and placed in the organization’s front courtyard to commemorate the significance of the event in the nation’s history. Unveiled adjacent to it was an artistic tribute to the people and culture of the Wampanoag Nation, the Native Americans who met the Pilgrims after their arrival in Plymouth harbor.

“The sailing of the Mayflower stands as an icon in American history. The Mayflower Compact was formative to our democracy. And we are just as committed to telling the Native American story,” said D. Brenton Simons, President and CEO of American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society.

“As the largest nonprofit involved in the commemoration—with more than 260,000 members and millions of online users—we have a responsibility to educate people everywhere about this historic occasion,” Simons said. “We will carry out our work in many different ways—through events, tours, published scholarship, exhibitions, educational opportunities, and online research resources. We have had an important stake in telling this story since our founding in 1845 and we are dedicated to helping our members and the public connect to this important moment in American history,” he added.

The Boston Mayflower is a large replica of the iconic, square-rigged, 17th century vessel, measuring 10 ft. long x 10 ft. 10 in. high, and was crafted by marine artist Terrance “Terry” Geaghan of Bath, Maine. Anchored at the main entrance to American Ancestors on Newbury Street—one of Boston’s most-traveled pedestrian streets—it is constructed of eastern white pine. The replica was christened by Nancy S. Maulsby, of Greenwich, Conn., Chairman of the Board of Trustees of American Ancestors and New England Historic Genealogical Society.

In tribute to the Wampanoag people, an installation was unveiled by American Ancestors of a young Patuxet mother and child. Created by Steven Peters, creative director at SmokeSygnals, a Native American consultancy located in Mashpee, Mass., the piece depicts the tradition in which the Wampanoag people shared stories of family through the creation of intricately woven, beaded wampum belts. These belts included symbols that informed a narrative, recorded a treaty, or represented a legacy. Usually a collaboration of many tribal artisans, these most sacred belts were held by elders, spiritual leaders, and sachems and were often left unfinished for the story to continue. 

At the ceremonies on Wednesday, a new exhibit, Origins and Legacy of the Mayflower, was opened in the first floor gallery of American Ancestors. It explores the origins of the Mayflower migration and its lasting legacy and presents the story of the Mayflower—the quintessential American story—across four centuries, expressed through items drawn from New England Historic Genealogical Society. The exhibit complements the two art installations in honoring and learning from the enduring legacies of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag.  The art installations and the exhibit will be on view at the American Ancestors headquarters building through the end of the 2020 commemorative year. 

Individuals around the world can trace their genealogical ties to one of the 26 Pilgrim families known to have left descendants. It is estimated that there are more than 35 million people today who are descended from a Pilgrim. American Ancestors offers its expertise in researching and documenting that lineage through its website at and through specialized Mayflower products and services. A guest membership in American Ancestors is free and allows the member to research their family history online and to explore their own connection to the Mayflower story. 


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